My role as a member of the TWASI Council (The Wildlife Art Society International) has led to some exciting encounters within the wildlife art world, and the most recent – meeting Mandy Shepherd is no exception!
This year’s TWASI Annual Exhibition has coincided with a very special exhibition at Nature In Art which Celebrates the paintings of iconic artist and conservationist, David Shepherd who sadly passed away last year. The exhibition is only on until June 3rd, as is the TWASI Annual, so if you want to catch it you’ll need to be quick! TWASI has chosen the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation to support through the annual exhibition 2018 so profits made from exhibition sales and the daily raffle will be donated to this worthy cause.
This month is also the 30th Anniversary of Nature In Art, of which David Shepherd was a huge supporter in the very early days before it became the respected Wildlife Art Museum as we know it today.
One of David’s daughters, Mandy Shepherd (artist and conservationist in her own right) kindly agreed to open our TWASI exhibition and sit on our judging panel. On Saturday, after a tough day’s judging along side internationally reknowned artist, Pip McGarry and local conservation wildlife gardener/photographer Colin Higgins, Mandy gave a fascinating talk about the parallels between her own and her father’s art careers which both include military and wildlife art and of course, conservation.
Although possibly best known for his incredible elephant paintings, we are all aware of David Shepherd’s love of steam engines which also found their way into many of his paintings. In her talk, Mandy described her father’s passion for these huge machines and how he used to wangle his way on to the footplate saying ‘If I am going to paint this engine, I must ride on it so I know how it feels!’ (As he aparently did with all the military aeroplanes he painted too!!) This is where my spine began to tingle as a personal connection began to reveal itself. …Mandy mentioned a particular steam engine called ‘The Evening Star’ – this is one of several old steam engines my Grandpa used to drive. (Another is the The Flying Scotsman which I know David has painted too.) All sorts of thoughts began to run through my mind…I wondered if my Grandpa had driven David Shepherd? That, I will never know but I came away from the talk buzzing with excitement as all sorts of tangible connections were forming in my head.
Back in January, I was exhibiting some of my owl paintings at Beningbrough Hall near York and took the opportunity to visit the National Railway Museum where I saw ‘The Evening Star’. I took these photos – it’s funny to think my owl paintings took me there, now my owl paintings have led me to meet Mandy Shepherd, listen to her talk and make these connections – like joining the dots in a crazy dot-to-dot puzzle!
I’d been fortunate to meet David Shepherd 4 years ago at The Wildlife Artist of The Year Exhibition – a fantastic exhibition set up to raise funds for the David Shepherd Wildlife Foiundation to help with many conservation causes around the world. Now, meeting Mandy Shepherd and hearing her personal recollections of life with her father and her intentions to continue the dedicated work in conservation set up by her father’s foundation has inspired me further in my own art practice. I’ve always wanted to ‘give something back’ to the wildlife that has inspired me to paint – in my case, my greatest passion is for barn owls. I am now feeling even more determined to make a success of my art and in turn contribute to the conservation of our British Barn Owls.
….and I’m still buzzing with excitement at the thought of this previously unimagined personal connnection between me, my beloved Grandpa and one of my greatest idols since I was a little girl – David Shepherd CBE – Amazing!
The cherry on the cake – being awared ‘Highly Commended’ by Mandy Shepherd, Pip McGarry and Colin Higgins for my painted feather ‘Kestrel’ – Over The Moon is an understatement! Thank you!